[in-dee-uh n]
See more synonyms for Indian on
  1. Also called American Indian, Amerind, Amerindian, Native American. a member of the aboriginal people of America or of any of the aboriginal North or South American stocks, usually excluding the Eskimos.
  2. any of the indigenous languages of the American Indians. Abbreviation: Ind
  3. a member of any of the peoples native to or inhabiting India or the East Indies.
  4. a citizen of the Republic of India.
  5. Slang. a person who performs a required task or carries out the instructions of superiors: We have too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
  6. Astronomy. the constellation Indus.
  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of the American Indians or their languages.
  2. of, relating to, or characteristic of India or the East Indies.
  3. made of Indian corn: Indian meal.
  4. Zoogeography. oriental(def 3).
  5. Phytogeography. belonging or pertaining to a geographical division comprising India south of the Himalayas, and Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Origin of Indian

1350–1400; < Medieval Latin Indiānus; replacing Middle English Indien < Old French < Medieval Latin as above. See India, -an
Related formsnon-In·di·an, adjective, nounpre-In·di·an, noun, adjectivepro-In·di·an, adjectivepseu·do-In·di·an, adjective, nountrans-In·di·an, adjective

Usage note

Because Christopher Columbus mistakenly believed that the Caribbean island on which he had landed was the subcontinent of India, he called the inhabitants Indians. Eventually, that name was applied to almost all the indigenous, non-European inhabitants of North and South America. In modern times Indian may refer to an inhabitant of the subcontinent of India or of the East Indies, to a citizen of the Republic of India, or to a member of an aboriginal American people.
In the 18th century the term American Indian came to be used for the aboriginal inhabitants of the United States and Canada; it now includes the aboriginal peoples of South America as well. (When necessary, further distinctions are made with such terms as North American Indian and South American Indian. ) The terms Amerindian and Amerind subsequently developed in the attempt to reduce ambiguity. For some, especially among North American Indians, the preferred designation is Native American. All these terms appear in edited writing. Whether one or several will gain ascendancy over the others remains to be seen.
The only pre-European inhabitants of North America to whom Indian or other terms using the word Indian are not applied are the Eskimos or Inuit. See Eskimo. See also honest Injun, Indian giver. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for indians

Amerind, Amerindian, Indian, injun

Examples from the Web for indians

Contemporary Examples of indians

Historical Examples of indians

British Dictionary definitions for indians


  1. a native, citizen, or inhabitant of the Republic of India
  2. old-fashioned, taboo a Native American
  3. (not in scholarly usage) any of the languages of Native Americans
  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of India, its inhabitants, or any of their languages
  2. (Not in scholarly usage) of, relating to, or characteristic of Native Americans or any of their languages


Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for indians


"inhabit of India or South Asia," c.1300 (noun and adjective); applied to the native inhabitants of the Americas from at least 1553, on the mistaken notion that America was the eastern end of Asia. Red Indian, to distinguish them from inhabitants of India, is first attested 1831 (Carlyle) but was not commonly used in North America. More than 500 modern phrases include Indian, most of them U.S. and most impugning honesty or intelligence, e.g. Indian giver, first attested 1765 in Indian gift:

An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected. [Thomas Hutchinson, "History of Massachusetts Bay," 1765]

Meaning "one who gives a gift and then asks for it back" first attested 1892.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper